Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tullow Oil, Ghana EPA in permit tango - Who is saying the truth?

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Tullow Oil, the British oil and gas exploration company operating in Ghana has responded to accusations by Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that it presented inaccurate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank to acquire a loan of $115 million.

The EPA on April 7, 2009 accused Tullow Oil and its partner, Texas based Kosmos Energy of presenting inaccurate EIA reports to the IFC to secure loans to the tune of $215 million to finance their activities in Ghana.

According to the EPA the two companies are at the second stage of completing comprehensive EIA reports.

On a Joy News bulletin monitored by Tuesday April 7, 2009, Mr. Ebenezer Acquah Sampong, who is Head of Environmental Assessment at the EPA said the two companies would be compelled to complete the EIA before they are allowed to start operations.

He said the Environmental Assessment Regulation of 1999 requires that before any company embarks on any project of that nature, it goes through the full EIA procedure and is given a permit.

He said the procedure requires that companies register, and then they do a scoping exercise and submit a scoping report with a terms of reference for the study. He said however, before a ‘scoping report’ is submitted “extensive consultations ought to be done with all major stakeholders to know their concerns about the project.”

He said the companies have done that and submitted a report, but they were told to go back and do wider consultations at all levels at the national, regional, and district levels.

Seeking to clarify this matter, wrote to Tullow Oil and Kosmos Energy to get their side of the story, and after over a month, it is only Tullow Oil that has responded to our request, Kosmos Energy has not even acknowledged receipt of our email.

In an email response to, signed by Tony Djokoto, Senior Legal Counsel for Tullow Ghana Limited, Tullow Oil said, “regarding the EPA accusations, as you know, we have a valid permit from the EPA that governs our current activities and regard ourselves as being compliant with the terms of the permit. We are still in discussions with the relevant Governmental stakeholders and will revert to you once we have an outcome.”

But the EPA says, “as far as we are concerned, no Environmental Impact Assessment report has been submitted to us and they know that and we have made our position known to them.”

Mr. Sampong said, emphatically that the only report the EPA has received from the oil companies is a scoping report.

Meanwhile, civil society orgnisations are also insisting that Tullow Oil and Kosmos Energy have not done comprehensive environmental impact assessments on the projects.

Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities in 2007 leading to high hopes of economic boom for the country. Concerns were immediately raised by various interest groups about the dangers inherent in the discovery of oil to the country’s social and economic health.

Nigeria and some other African countries who have oil were cited as examples and calls were made for Ghana to get it right from the word go so that the country can avoid the canker associated with oil-rich African countries.

There have been perpetual violent conflicts particularly in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, where the bulk of the country’s oil is drilled.

With these developments, it is hard to tell, if Ghana is not already missing the point before commercial production begins in 2010.

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